Thursday, September 28, 2017

Happy Thirtieth (!) Anniversary To Star Trek: The Next Generation!

I originally wrote this post five years ago, for Star Trek: The Next Generation's 25th Anniversary. Since I have nothing new to add, I'm digging it out of mothballs and posting it again (with appropriate tweaks) for the 30th!

Believe it or not, it was exactly thirty years ago today that Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered. It first aired back on September 28, 1987. That was THIRTY YEARS AGO! What the hell's going on with the flow of time lately? 

ST:TNG was the highest rated syndicated show ever, averaging around 20 million viewers per episode. That was more than some prime time series generated at the time, and far more than any series could ever hope to achieve today (to be fair, some stations aired the show twice a week, which naturally doubled the ratings). It racked up a whopping 18 Emmys. It was also the only syndicated program to ever be nominated for an Emmy for Best Dramatic Series. Not bad for a show about people exploring outer space in their pajamas.

I was a huge fan of the series back in the day (by that of course I mean I was an avid enthusiast of the show, not that I myself was huge). After all, this was the first brand new live action Star Trek content to be aired in almost two decades! I dutifully recorded it every week on my trusty VCR (ask your parents, kids) and spent many a paycheck on Trek related merchandise.

The series featured a great cast (especially Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner), top notch writing and for the most part, slick state of the art special effects.

ST:TNG gave us many new and memorable alien races: the greedy, capitalistic Ferengi, the Nazi-like Kardashians, er, I mean Cardassians and best of all, the relentless, unstoppable Borg.

It also took the Klingons, who were pretty much one-dimensional villains in the Original Series and greatly expanded their culture, making them one of the more interesting races on the show.

They even managed to feature a few guest appearances from Original Series characters, specifically McCoy, Spock, Sarek and Scotty.

Like the Original Series, ST:TNG used sci-fi to examine various controversial topics such as racism, terrorism, assisted suicide, child abuse, homosexuality and torture.

Despite all the accolades and my love for the show, even I have to admit that it wasn't perfect. Many of the First Season episodes are absolutely dreadful and are a chore to sit through. The Second Season was better, but was marred and cut short by a lengthy writer's strike. In fact the final episode of Season Two strayed firmly into Family Ties territory as it gave us the first ever clip show in the history of Trek! The series finally hit its stride in Season 3 and from then on gave us a shuttlecraft full of memorable episodes. 

Part of me has to wonder: If it had been a network show, would they have given the series two full seasons to get its bearings? I'm thinking probably not.

ST:TNG also suffered from a large number of just plain dull characters. Counselor Troi? Dr. Crusher? I'm dozing just typing their names. For seven seasons all Counselor Troi ever did was sit in a chair with her arms crossed and say, "I sense great anger..." Her only memorable characteristic was that she liked chocolate. How fascinating. And other than her wildly inappropriate name I don't think we ever learned anything at all about Dr. Crusher. 

Even Geordi LaForge was pretty bland when you think about it. The only interesting thing about his character was that he was blind and wore a cool vision-enhancing VISOR.

The original Star Trek had some very vibrant and distinct characters, particularly Kirl, Spock and McCoy. There extreme personalities often made for some dynamic interactions. ST:TNG's three most interesting characters— Picard, Data and Worf— paled greatly in comparison.

A good part of the blame for the dull characters has to lie with series creator Gene Roddenberry. "The Great Bird Of The Galaxy" had the lofty notion that by the 24th Century, humanity will have advanced to the point where everyone will get along. That's a very nice sentiment, but... it ain't ever gonna happen. If humans haven't learned to live together in the past 5,000 years, there's no reason to think it'll happen in the next 300.

Nevertheless, Roddenberry was adamant that there be no conflict between crew members on the Enterprise. Apparently he never took any creative writing courses through the mail like I did or he'd have known that conflict is the basis of all drama. Without it, all you've got is a bunch of people sitting around holding hands, smiling and singing Kumbaya. Pleasant enough I suppose, but it sure makes for dull TV.

That wasn't the only peculiar idea he had for the show. For some reason he didn't want any of the alien races from the Original Series to appear on ST:TNG. That meant no Vulcans, Klingons or Romulans; fan-favorites the audience would be expecting to see. Luckily he was overruled on that one, else Lt. Worf would never have been a part of the crew.

He also toyed with the idea of not having a ship in the new series at all. He thought that by the 24th Century technology would have advanced to the point in which the crew would use some sort of "super transporter" to just teleport anywhere in the galaxy. He was outvoted on that one as well (no doubt by studio lawyers who'd happened to see the movie Stargate).

Some of his ideas were just downright... kinky. He supposedly wanted the males of the newly created Ferengi race to be incredibly well-endowed, sporting enormous schlongs up to two feet long (!), and covered by gigantic codpieces. Fortunately one of the producers took him aside and pointed out that the series was airing on regular TV, not HBO or Cinemax.  

The series also relied much too heavily on the ship breaking down every week in order to create tension. In practically every episode the B-plot involved some piece of the Enterprise-D's technology malfunctioning and putting the crew in danger. Sure, Kirk's ship broke down now and then, but Picard's was worse than an old used car. It became a crutch for the writers whenever they couldn't think of any other way to fill the time slot.

ST:TNG provided me with many memorable and sometimes shocking moments over the years. Remember that the series aired before the internet cropped up, in an era in which you didn't have to work at avoiding spoilers. Back then the only way to find out what was going to happen was to just sit down and watch the show.

The third season finale— in which Captain Picard is captured and assimilated by the Borg and Commander Riker gives the order to fire on him as the screen faded to black— absolutely floored me. I was not expecting that and had no idea such a shocking denouement was coming. I spent a long and anxious summer waiting for the follow-up to air in the fall. 

The problem with the show's cliffhanger episodes though was that the setups were always way better than their lackluster resolutions the next season. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, "You know how to set up the cliffhanger, you just don't know how to resolve the cliffhanger."

As much as I loved the show, watching it (or rather trying to watch it) was a grueling chore, due to my local TV station. It was just plain hard work to even find the show where I lived. In my hometown ST:TNG was usually relegated to the wee hours of Sunday morning, in time slots normally occupied by Aerosol Toupee and Psychic Hotline infomercials.

One week it might be on Saturday night at 11 pm, the next at 1:30 am Sunday morning. Sometimes it would even pop up in the afternoon! You just never knew when it might air. I used to record the show every week but I couldn't just set the timer on the VCR and forget it, because there was no guarantee as to when it might start. Many's the night I would stay up until 1 or even 2 am waiting for the show to begin so I could hit the record button (and then I'd have to go to work at 6 am the next day!).

I never understood the local station's attitude toward the show. This wasn't some execrable drivel like Mama's Family, this was an award winning, critically acclaimed series that regularly got higher ratings than some network shows. Plus it had a built in audience of rabid fans. So why the shabby treatment?

Sometimes I wonder if the station's programming director secretly hated the show and deliberately aired it at such a dismal hour in hope that the ratings would sag and he could justify canceling it. Why else would you pay for an no-doubt expensive syndicated program and then air it when no one was awake?

Ah well, that's all in the past now. Thirty years in the past, to be exact. Thanks to home video and streaming I can now watch the show anytime I want.

So Happy Birthday, Star Trek: The Next Generation. I'll close with a joke: What did Captain Picard say when he took his sewing machine to the repair shop? Make it sew! Haw!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Orville Season 1, Episode 3: About A Girl

Goddammit!

A couple weeks ago I posted a lengthy rant about Seth MacFarlane's new series scifi series
 Star Trek: The Next Generation, er, I mean The Orville. At that time I said I had no plans to review the show, because I just didn't have time and I wasn't all that impressed with it.

Well, we're now three episodes in, and I still haven't decided if I actually like the show or not. I have to admit it's starting to grow on me though. Much like a hard-to-cure foot fungus. So against all logic and reason, I've changed my mind and here I am reviewing the goddamned Orville.

I'm starting with this week's episode, which I know is a bit odd. I'll backtrack and review the first two in a bit.


As you can probably tell, I still have a weird love/hate relationship with this show. I was a huge fan of ST:TNG back in the day, so I'm both attracted and repelled by how much MacFarlane's cribbed from that series. Seriously, it's downright shocking. Last year CBS, who owns the Star Trek brand, got all pissy and unilaterally outlawed the making of fan films— even the non-profit ones! So how the hell is MacFarlane getting away with making what amounts to a professional fan film like this? I honestly don't get it.

The Orville is also quite the schizophrenic little series, as it can't quite figure out what it wants to be. It's too silly to be taken seriously, but it contains too much drama to be considered a comedy. It's desperately trying to tread in both camps, but so far hasn't found the proper balance. Hopefully they'll figure it out soon and settle on a more consistent tone.

This week's episode was written by creator and actor Seth MacFarlane and directed by Brannon Braga. Trekkies will certainly recognize Braga's name, as he was a writer on all the modern Star Trek series. He's also responsible for writing the Voyager episode Threshold (the one where Captain Janeway and Tom Paris turn into giant salamanders), which is widely considered to be the worst hour of ANY version of any Trek series.

MacFarlane attempts to create an old school Star Trek "morality play" episode here— the kind that uses an alien culture to comment on a hot-button issue that's plaguing our own society. Like featuring aliens who are black on one side and white on the other, to show us that racism is bad. In this particular instance it's gender identity.

MacFarlane's script does a decent job at first, presenting rational arguments on both sides of the issue, which actually gives the viewer something to think about. Unfortunately he loses his focus in the third act, as the story devolves into a "women can do anything and men are stupid" girl power rant, which is not the same issue at all.

Even though it didn't exactly work, I'll give MacFarlane credit for trying to say something relevant. It was a bold move, especially in our current society where the country's viscously divided over which goddamned bathroom certain people can use.

Despite the fact that The Orville's first two episodes aired on Sunday night, apparently the show's moving to Thursdays. Unfortunately this move caused the series to take a huge ratings hit, pretty much halving the audience. I have a feeling that's because most people didn't realize it moved. I only found out when I just happened to see a mention of it online. Hopefully people will figure it out, find the show again and the ratings will pick back up.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Bortus and Klyden, members of the all-male Moclan race, are stunned when their child is born female. Since this is seen as a horrible birth defect and a socially embarrassing abnormality on their world, they intend to have their daughter surgically corrected to become a male.

Bortus asks Dr. Finn to perform the procedure, but she refuses, smugly claiming it would be unethical. Bortus then goes to Captain Mercer, and asks him to order Dr. Finn to comply. Mercer also refuses, saying it's wrong to subject a child to a life-altering procedure without her consent. Bortus correctly points out that it's wrong for Mercer to judge another culture by human standards, but the Captain's adamant.

Later Mercer's contacted by the Moclan government, who announce they're sending a ship to rendezvous with The Orville to pick up Bortus' child and take it to Moclas for alteration. Mercer's livid with Bortus for going over his head and calling for a ship. Kelly goes so far as to say Bortus' actions could jeopardize Moclas' place in the Planetary Union, which seems a little over the top. Mercer relieves Bortus of command, and he and Kelly discuss the morality of the situation.

Mercer gets a half-baked idea— he gets Alara to challenge Bortus to a boxing match. 
As a Xelayan, Alara has super-strength, and Mercer hopes this will make Bortus see that females can do anything. Or something like that. Bortus sees through this lame plan and quite rightly demands the crew stop sticking their noses in his business.

Gordon and John take a shot at convincing Bortus by watching Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer with him (?). Amazingly, the whimsical animated Xmas tale opens Bortus' eyes, and he actually changes his mind about altering his daughter (!).

Bortus tells Klyden that they should leave their child alone. Klyden disagrees and refuses to go along with it. When Bortus asks why, Klyden sheepishly admits he was born a female and was physically realigned.

Bortus is furious with Klyden for not telling him about this until now. Klyden says he's glad he was altered, as otherwise he'd have been an outcast in their society and would have lived a life of shame and ridicule. Bortus says Klyden doesn't know that, and he might have achieved great things as a woman, just as Rudolph did with his glowing nose.

The Moclan ship arrives, and its Captain demands Bortus hand over the child to him. Mercer refuses to let the baby leave the ship, saying it's under his protection. The Moclan Captain threatens Mercer, until Bortus finally calls for the matter to be settled by Tribunal. The Moclan Captain claims it's pointless, as the Tribunal will undoubtedly side with him. Bortus asks Kelly, who he sees as a neutral party, to be his advocate (aka lawyer). She reluctantly agrees.

The Orville and the Moclan ship arrive at Kronos, er, I mean Moclas. It's an ugly, industrialized world filled with factories that constantly belch pollutants into the air.

At the Tribunal, the Prosecutor states his case, claiming that if Bortus doesn't allow his child to be altered, he'll rob it of the chance to have a normal social life and meet a mate.

Kelly tries a different tactic, as she attempts to prove that females are better than males (which isn't even close to the same argument  but whatever). She has Alara demonstrate her great strength, which is far higher than that of any Moclan male. She also proves that Gordon, a male, is far stupider than any women. The Prosecutor rightly points out that these examples have nothing to do with Moclans.

As the Tribunal winds down, Mercer gets an idea. He calls Isaac on The Orville, and has him scan the planet for female life signs. Amazingly, Isaac senses one high in the mountains. Mercer, John and Alara fly a shuttle into the mountains, where they find an elderly Moclan female living alone in a cabin.

Meanwhile the Prosecutor demands that Kelly stop stalling, and convinces the Judge to end the Tribunal. Right on cue, Mercer returns with the Moclan female. The Tribunal is stunned by the very sight of such a creature. She tells her life story, revealing that her parents chose not to have her altered, and moved high in the mountains with her. There they taught her and raised her until they both died.

The Prosecutor isn't convinced, claiming she's worthless because she's never contributed anything to society. She then begins quoting the works of Gondus Elden, Moclas' most revered writer. The Prosecutor demands she stop sullying the name of Elden, until she reveals she's actually him, having written under a pen name her entire life.

The Tribunal is gobsmacked that a female could produce such works, but end up ruling in favor of altering the baby anyway. Bortus is crushed.

Later a Moclan doctor returns the baby, now a male, to 
Bortus and Klyden. Bortus vows to give his child a good life and love him, whatever he decides to become. They name their son Topa, and Bortus places a stuffed Rudolph toy in his crib.

Thoughts:
• While watching this episode I glanced at the time code, and noticed it was less than forty three minutes long— and that's including beginning and end credits! Jesus Christ! That means there's about forty minutes of actual content, and TWENTY minutes of commercials! How long before it's half and half?


• Moclan biology doesn't seem very well thought out. In the pilot episode we're told that ALL Moclans are male, which raised the question of just how they reproduce. Last week we got an answer, as Bortus was apparently impregnated (!) and laid an egg (!!). 

So... are ALL Moclans capable of doing that? They'd pretty much have to be, because if only half of them can reproduce, then wouldn't they technically be considered... female? And if all Moclans CAN reproduce, how does a couple decide which one's going to be the mom?

Apparently none of this is any of our business, as it's never fully explained.


• This is the second week in a row now that Doctor Finn refused to help a member of the crew. Last week when Alara was left in charge of the ship and asked for advice, the Doctor told her to figure it out for herself. This  week Bortus asks her to alter his daughter and of course she balks. Does she actually do anything on the ship?

• I'm assuming they used CGI makeup on Bortus' kid, and didn't actually glue rubber prosthetics to a newborn baby's head.

• Bortus tells Ed that all Moclans are male, but once every seventy five years or so a female "anomaly" is born. Later in the episode Klytus reveals he was actually born a female and was surgically altered to become male.

That means one of two things: Either Bortus is wrong about the frequency of female Moclan births, or Klytus is over seventy five years old!


• Although this series shamelessly lifts virtually everything from ST:TNG, it fails to copy one huge component of that series— it's humans are nowhere near as evolved. Mercer seems to have a healthy disrespect and even outright contempt for Moclan social mores. This Mercer come off as a smug asshole rather than an enlightened leader. Who the hell made humans the moral guardians of the galaxy? What happened to celebrating our differences and honoring alien cultures?

• Despite the fact that The Orville's human crew spends the entire episode judging Bortus and Klyden for their treatment of their child, no one ever bats an eye over the fact that two Moclan dudes are living together and having sex. In fact it's never mentioned even once, and is completely accepted by everyone. So kudos for that, I guess.


• Does The Orville have any kind of schedule or regular assignment? Can Mercer really just zoom off to Moclas (or wherever) whenever he feels like it?

• Bortus' mate Klyden is played by Chad S. Coleman, who starred as Tyreese on The Walking Dead. No matter how hard I squint, I just can't see Tyreese under all those heavy prosthetics.

• The Rudolph Xmas special is currently owned by Universal. I wonder how much Fox had to pay them to use clips of it in this episode?

By the way, the scenes that Bortus, Gordon and John watch are heavily edited, as large chunks fly by while the crew's talking.

The Orville is a horribly designed starship. In this episode we get a good look at the main (and only?) shuttle bay, and we see that the central engine ring is located just behind it. You can see the ring as the bay doors open in the image above.

That means every time a shuttle takes off, it's got to immediately fly up or down and thread its way through the engine rings to avoid smashing into them (that's the shuttle desperately trying to avoid the rings in the center of both images above)! 

This is a HUGE design flaw, as there don't appear to be transporters in this world, so The Orville is constantly launching shuttles every day! No wonder Gordon has to be "the best pilot in the galaxy!" One slip-up during a launch and he'll destroy the whole ship.

• There's some blatant plot trickery during the Tribunal scene when Mercer contacts Isaac on The Orville. He says, "I want you to run a planetary scan on the following search parameters," but then types in the rest of the message.

Why the hell'd he do that? Why type in "scan for female life signs" instead of just saying it to Isaac? Answer: Because if he did, then it wouldn't have been a "shocking" reveal to the audience when they discovered there was a Moclan female secretly living in the mountains.


This is an old, old plot trick used by thousands of TV shows and movies over the years, as a way to keep the audience in the dark until the writer's ready to reveal their twist.

• Early in the episode, Mercer speaks into a small communicator built into the sleeve of his uniform to acknowledge a hail. Later on Moclas, he pulls out a full-fledged Star Trek communicator to call the ship. Why have two different devices?


I'm betting the handheld communicator was needed as part of the "Scan For Females" plot trick, because it had a keypad on it and the sleeve model didn't. 


I suppose we could be generous and say the handheld communicator has a longer range than the sleeve model. I suppose we could say that, but I don't see why we should.

• When Mercer and the others are searching the mountains for the female Moclan recluse, John says it's hard to get a fix on her because there's a lot of "thermal interference coming from beneath the surface," which is interfering with their detectors.

So their scanners can't work because the ground's too hot? Ummm....


• This Week's Incongruous 21st Century (And Earlier!) References:
Kelly tells the Moclan Captain that he can entertain himself by playing board games such as Scrabble, Candy Land or Monopoly.

As mentioned earlier, Bortus, Gordon and John watch the Rankin-Bass Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Xmas Special, which first aired in 1964.

When Bortus quotes the most famous writer on Moclas to Kelly, he says its customary to respond with a quote from your own planet's greatest mind. Kelly replies with lyrics from the Destiny's Child song Survivor. Yeah, that song's not gonna be around in 2418. Hell, it's only 2017 and I had to look it up!

I have a theory about this. Over on ST:TNG, the crew lived in the 24th Century but they were constantly reading Shakespeare while listening to classical music. I wonder... is it possible that all the modern pop culture references on The Orville are a very subtle jab at that trope? It that the joke, that the crew of The Orville listens to Beyonce instead of Mozart? If that's really the case, it's actually kind of clever. Is Seth MacFarlane really capable of coming up with such an understated joke?

• THIS WEEK'S JAW-DROPPING STAR TREK SWIPES THAT MAKE ME WONDER HOW LONG IT'LL BE BEFORE CBS SUES THE PANTS OFF OF FOX:

This entire episode borrows HUGE swathes of its plot from the ST:TNG episode The Outcast. In that story, the Enterprise-D encounters the J'naii, a race of genderless beings. Commander Riker works closely with a J'naii named Soren, helping repair one of their ships. 

Soren tells Riker about its race, saying that although they're androgynous, every now and then a J'naii is born who identifies as male or female. Soren confesses to Riker that she thinks of herself as female, and of course he immediately falls in love with her.

The J'naii government finds out about Soren's "perversion" and orders her to undergo mandatory conversion therapy to eliminate all traces of her female urges. Riker protests, and the rest of the episode is a big morality play about gender identity and choice. In the end, Soren's forced to undergo the therapy, becomes androgynous again and Riker loses her.

Sound familiar? Like I said before, I still don't understand how MacFarlane's getting away with this.

The Orville has an almost exact duplicate of the Enterprise-D's Ten Forward lounge, complete with a bank of forward-facing panoramic windows, offering a spectacular view of space. They've even got an alien bartender, although this one appears to be male instead of a lady in a comically enormous hat.

The Orville's version of Ten Forward must not be in the front of the ship though, as the Enterprise-D's was. When Mercer and Kelly are talking in front of a large window in the lounge, the stars are slowly moving AWAY from them, not towards them as they would if they were facing the direction of travel.

In the ST:TNG episode Data's Day, Worf visits the replicator room as he tries to decide on a wedding gift for Chief O'Brien and Keiko. In the background we see a couple replicating a stuffed toy for their kid.

In About A Girl we see Klyden visiting the replicator room to materialize some new clothes for himself. In the background we see a couple replicate a decorative vase! Jesus Jetskiing Christ, even the camera angles are exacly the same!

I just realized this week that Mercer has a ready room just like Captain Picard did in ST:TNG. It's even located right next to the bridge!

Bortus' quarters look almost identical to Worf's on ST:TNG as well.

Hell, he's even got some kind of weird ass sculpture in the corner, just like the chair/abstract art thing Worf had in his room!

In addition to aforementioned The Outcast, this episode borrows bits and pieces from several other ST:TNG episodes as well. 

In Sins Of The Father, Worf challenged the Klingon High Council in an effort to clear his family name. He went outside his race and chose Captain Picard to stand by him as his cha'Dich, which was sort of the Klingon version of a legal advocate. Much the way Bortus chose Kelly to defend him in the Tribunal in this episode.

Also in Sins Of The Father, Picard hunts down an ancient Klingon woman named Kahlest, who has evidence that can restore Worf's honor. Picard brings her into the High Council as a surprise witness, pretty much exactly like Mercer does with the Moclan female here.

In Devil's Due, Captain Picard was also drafted into defending a planet against their version of Satan. And in The Measure Of A Man, Commander Riker was forced to try and prove that Data was a machine, and not a sentient being.

Lastly, in A Fistful Of Datas, Worf's son Alexander talks him into going on a Wild West holodeck adventure, giving the cast a chance to play cowboy. And in this episode, Mercer, Gordon and John go on a Wild West holodeck adventure, giving the cast a chance to play cowboy. 

How is any of this legal?

Monday, September 25, 2017

It Came From The Cineplex: IT

It's finally here! At long, long last, a reason to actually go back to the cineplex! It's the most inexplicably anticipated Stephen King movie of the year! Get ready for The Dark Tower IT!

IT was written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman, and directed by Andy Muschietti.

Palmer previously wrote... well, nothing much, other than a couple of short films. This appears to be his first theatrical screenplay. Fukunaga is a writer, director and producer, who previously wrote Sin Nombre, Chinatown Film Project and Beasts Of No Nation, none of which I've ever heard of. Dauberman previously wrote Annabelle, Within, Wolves At The Door and Annabelle: Creation.

Muschietti has just one theatrical credit to his name
— the bland and mediocre horror film Mama. Somehow he managed to rise above his limited resume and made a decent film.


The film's based on the 1986 novel by Stephen King, and is the second attempt at adapting it to the screen. ABC aired a very mediocre TV miniseries version of IT back in 1990.


So how's the new IT? Did someone finally make a good Stephen King movie? Happily, the answer's yes. It's a decent adaptation, and actually contains a few genuine scares. It's definitely much, much better than the dreadful The Dark Tower, King's other movie adaptation that's currently stinking up a few cineplexes across the country. IT is also a rarity in the cineplex these days— unlike most modern watered-down PG-13 horror films, It's actually rated R! For that alone it deserves high praise. When's the last time we saw an honest-to-goodness R-rated horror movie?

That said, I'm puzzled by the huge amount of hype surrounding this movie. The internet's been buzzing about it for over a year and tickets went on sale months before the premiere. I honestly don't get it. As a story, I would call IT OK at best. It's mildly scary and has its share of iconic moments, but it's not THAT great. So why's there so much interest in this property? 

The only explanation I can think of is that the people who can't wait to see the new film have never read the overlong, throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks book, or are too young to remember the lame, scare-free TV miniseries.

The plotline of the novel takes place in two separate time periods (the 1950s and the 1980s), as it follows the characters as children and adults. The book's not strictly divided into two distinct eras though— instead the past and present are intertwined, as the adults recall their childhood adventures fighting Pennywise The Dancing Clown. 


The TV miniseries sort of follows this structure for the most part, as Part 1 introduces us to the characters as adults first, who then flash back to their childhoods for most of the runtime. Part 2 mostly features the adults, with just a few scenes of the kids. It also moved the "present" to 1990, the year the miniseries aired.

This new version of IT splits the story right down the middle, giving us just the kid half. At no point do we ever see any of the characters as adults. Presumably they're saving them for the inevitable sequel. 

Eh, I dunno. I can see that plan backfiring on them. This first film introduces us to a cast of likable and endearing child actors. Now in the sequel the audience will have to get used to an entirely NEW set of actors. It could be a nasty jolt to the moviegoing public when they realize those kids they liked so much in the first film aren't gonna be in Part 2 (or will show up, but have very limited screen time).

To be honest I've always thought the kid part of the story is MUCH stronger than the adult half. I think that's because it's a lot easier to accept a gang of kids being terrorized by a demonic clown. When it's a group of grown-ass adults hunting down a killer clown, it just seems kind of... silly. I really wish they'd just stop with this film and forget about the adult half altogether. I know that's never gonna happen though, especially after the success of this first part.

Frankly it's a wonder the movie turned out as well as it did, considering was in development hell for seven years, going through numerous scripts and two different directors along the way.


Cary Fukunaga wrote the first screenplay, which was definitely a mixed bag. For some reason, his script inexplicably changed the names of many of the characters. In his version, Bill Denbrough became Will, Henry Bowers became Travis and the character of "Belch" was changed to "Snatch." Why Fukunaga insisted on these perplexing and arbitrary changes, I have no idea.


His script retained many of the novel's more controversial and batsh*t insane scenes, such as Henry Bowers having sex with a sheep and ejaculating on a birthday cake, along with Beverly's father attempting to rape her. Yeah, you read right. Welcome to Stephen King's seamy, disturbing world. The studio wasn't exactly crazy about Fukunaga's script, as it would have likely earned the film the dreaded NC-17 rating, a sure-fire box office killer.


When the studio asked Fukunaga to cut out the more provocative scenes from his script, he refused and dropped out of the project. That's when Andy Muschietti stepped in. Muschietti loved the basic structure of Fukunaga's script, but changed a few elements to make it more faithful to the novel (and thankfully restored the original names of the characters). The final version was touched up a bit by Gary Dauberman, who eliminated the cosmic scenes from the book (which would have required extensive CGI work) to bring the project in on budget.


When the first trailer for IT dropped, it supposedly enraged hundreds of the nation's professional clowns. They claimed that by depicting clowns as evil and scary, it was costing them hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in business (!). To that I say a rousing, "Who cares?" Nobody likes clowns, it's an antiquated and obsolete art form that's way past its expiration date  and the sooner it dies out altogether the better!


So far IT is a massive hit, grossing an amazing $266 million against its paltry $35 million budget! It's made another $212 million overseas, for a worldwide total of $478 million! This is all the more impressive when you consider it's rated R, meaning a good chunk of the audience is theoretically barred from seeing it (but are no doubt doing so anyway).

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR BOTH THIS FILM, THE 1990 TV MINISERIES AND THE 1986 STEPHEN KING NOVEL!


The Plot:
The movie begins in Derry, Maine (of course) in October, 1988. Fourteen year old Bill Denbrough (the sensitive, stuttering one) makes a paper sailboat (because that's something kids still did in the 80s, right?) for his seven year old brother Georgie. Bill's sick in bed, so he tells Georgie to go outside in the rain and play with the boat by himself. For some reason, Georgie sets the boat in the street, and the heavy downpour carries it quickly away.

Georgie runs after the boat, but it moves so fast he can't keep up with it. It sails into a gutter and down into the sewer, which greatly upsets Georgie, since there's no way he could ever get another paper boat. As he stares down into the dark, damp gutter, suddenly a terrifying white face with glowing yellow eyes comes into view.
Instead of running for his life like any normal person would do, Georgie stays and talks to the hideous, unsettling demon, which identifies itself as 
Pennywise The Dancing Clown (played by Bill Skarsgard).

Pennywise offers Georgie a balloon, uttering his catchphrase, "We all float down here." Georgie politely refuses the offer. Pennywise then holds up the paper boat, and Georgie reaches into the drain for it. Pennywise grabs Georgie, bites off his right arm and drags him down into the sewer.

Cut to June 1989. It's the last day of school, and Bill and his friends Richie Tozier (the smart aleck), Eddie Kaspbrak (the jittery hypochondriac) and Stanley Uris (the responsible Jew) discuss their plans for the summer. They're terrorized by psychotic (and how!) punk Henry Bowers and his gang of hoodlums, but are saved by a security guard. This is why anyone who tells you "school is the best time of your life" should be punched repeatedly in the dick.

Meanwhile, another student named Beverly Marsh is bullied by several mean girls, who arbitrarily label her a slut. Beverly runs into Ben Hanscom, the overweight "new kid" who secretly has a crush on her.

All over Derry various kids start going missing, causing the city to initiate a curfew. Feeling guilty for Georgie's death, Bill becomes obsessed with finding his body. He builds an elaborate model of Derry's sewer system, believing Georgie may have washed through the tunnels and into a nearby marsh called the Barrens. This enrages Bill's father, who tells him Georgie's gone forever and to stop trying to find him.

On the other side of town, Mike Hanlon (the black homeschooled kid) makes a delivery to a local butcher shop. Mike lives with his grandfather after his parents died in a fire. As he approaches the shop's alley door, he sees a vision of Pennywise in a flaming slaughterhouse, beckoning to him. Suddenly he's almost run over by Henry, who roars down the alley in his car.

The other kids begin seeing Pennywise too. Ben goes to the library and reads up on Derry's inexplicably gory and unsettling history. While leafing through a book, he's lured into the basement by a floating balloon. Once there, he encounters the staggering corpse of a headless boy (who was decapitated in a factory explosion decades earlier). Suddenly the boy turns into Pennywise, and Ben escapes just in time.

In his father's temple, Stan studies for his upcoming bar mitzvah. While reading he looks up at a creepy painting of a woman with a distorted face. When he glances at it again, the painting is empty and the woman leaps out of the shadows at him before he escapes just in time.

Bill tells his friends about the Barrens, and convinces them to help him search there for Georgie's body. They enter a large sewer tunnel, where they find the sneaker of Betty Ripsom, a young girl who recently disappeared. 

Meanwhile, Henry and his gang capture Ben and straight up torture him. Henry even carves a large letter "H" into Ben's ample belly (Jesus Christ!). Ben manages to get away and takes off running into the woods. Patrick Hockstetter, one of Henry's thugs, wanders into the sewer looking for Ben. He bumps into Pennywise, who kills him because he's not a main character.

Ben runs into Bill and the others, who take him back into town to deal with his wounds. They go to the pharmacy, where they meet Beverly. She helps them steal first aid supplies and tends to Ben's injury, becoming friends with the boys in the process.

On his way home, Eddie passes a comically spooky-looking haunted house on Neibolt Street. He's attacked by Pennywise, who takes the form of a rotting leper— Eddie's greatest fear. He manages to escape just in time. In his home, Bill's lured down into his basement by Georgie, who of course turns out to be a disguised Pennywise. Suddenly Georgie starts screeching "We all float down here. YOU'LL FLOAT TOO!" Bill escapes just in time. Beverly hears children's voices coming from her bathroom sink. Suddenly several MILLION gallons of blood erupts from the drain, coating her and the entire room. She screams and her father enters, asking what the hell's going on. He's oblivious to the blood, and Beverly realizes adults can't see Pennywise and his antics.

The kids, who now call themselves "The Losers Club," meet in the woods and discuss their visions. They realize they're all being terrorized by the same evil being, which can appear as an evil clown or manifest itself as their worst fears. Suddenly they see Mike Hanlon being chased by Henry Bowers and what's left of his gang. They protect Mike, and drive off Henry and his thugs by pelting them with rocks.

The Losers meet in Bill's garage, where he tells them he thinks Pennywise is using the town's sewers to move around unseen (even though adults can't see him, so why bother?). Suddenly they're attacked by Pennywise when he leaps out of a slide projected on the wall (?). The kids theorize that Pennywise is scaring them because he actually feeds on their fear. Ben, the history buff, realizes that the evil clown appears in Derry and starts eating kids every twenty seven years. Using a map of Derry and Ben's knowledge of the town's history they deduce Pennywise is hiding in a well deep under the haunted house on Neibolt Street.

The Losers enter the Neibolt House, looking for the titular "IT." Pennywise appears as various creatures to try and separate the kids so he can pick them off more easily. Eddie falls through a floor, breaking his arm. Pennywise slowly heads for him, but the others arrive and Beverly stabs the evil clown through the head with a fence post. Pennywise leaps down the well in the basement, as the Losers escape just in time. They take Eddie back to his house, where his overprotective mother shrieks and tells them to stay away from her delicate son. Bill wants to finish off Pennywise, but the other kids believe it's too dangerous and refuse to help, causing the group to bicker and ultimately splinter.

Later Beverly's skeevy father tries to rape her but she hits him in the head with a toilet tank lid (possibly killing him?). Pennywise then appears and abducts her, taking her down to the sewers. Beverly tells Pennywise she's not afraid of him, so he opens his mouth impossibly wide, revealing the "deadlights" inside (don't ask). This puts her into a trance.

Bill finds out Beverly's been captured, and reunites the group to mount a rescue. Meanwhile, Pennywise talks the increasingly unhinged Henry into murdering his abusive father, and sends him to kill the Losers.

The kids arrive at the Neibolt House, and use a rope to lower themselves into a tunnel in the side of the bottomless well. Before Mike can enter the well, Henry suddenly appears and attacks him. The two struggle for a bit, and Mike throws Henry down the well, where he falls far below to his death (wink wink). Mike climbs down to the tunnel with the others.

After wandering the tunnels for a bit the kids finally find Pennywise's lair. It's a huge cavern containing a  giant column made of his previous victims, some of whom are indeed "floating down here." The boys see Beverly floating near the column, and pull her down to the ground. They try to wake her, but can't rouse her from her clown-induced trance. Ben plants a big kiss on her and she instantly wakes up. That was easy!

Pennywise appears to Bill as Georgie AGAIN, luring him away from the others and capturing him. Pennywise then tells the others he'll let them leave if they give him Bill. The Losers unanimously decide they no longer fear Pennywise and begin beating the crap out of him with boards and pipes. Weakened by the kids' lack of fear, Pennywise is seriously wounded and slithers back down into an even DEEPER well in the sewers. The dead bodies floating around the column float back down to Earth. Bill finds Georgie's yellow rain slicker and realizes his brother is gone forever.

A month later, Beverly tells the Losers she had a vision of them starring in a sequel, fighting Pennywise again twenty seven years in the future. The kids all participate in a blood oath (Whew! Is that all?) and swear to return to Derry to battle Pennywise if he returns. They wander off one by one, with only Bill and Beverly remaining. Bill kisses her and the credits roll.

Thoughts:
• The beginning of the film, in which Georgie sails his paper boat down the street and sees Pennywise poking his head out of the gutter, is a near perfect recreation of the same scene in the TV miniseries. The staging, pacing and dialogue in both versions is almost identical, with just a couple of minor variations.


Heck, even the camera angles of Georgie talking to the evil clown are virtually the same! I don't know if this was done intentionally as an homage to the miniseries, or if there are only so many ways you can film a kid talking to a clown in a gutter.

• I recently rewatched the 1990 IT miniseries in preparation for this review, and was shocked by how terrible it was. It's cheap looking, totally scare-free and consistently bad in almost every conceivable aspect.


The main problem is the fact that it aired on ABC, meaning it had to conform to early 90s network TV standards. This resulted in a dull, sluggish and bland "horror" film which was sanitized for the audience's protection.


The acting was also a mixed bag. The kids weren't too awfully bad, as most of them (including Seth Green and the late Jonathan Brandis) turned in decent and believable performances. But the adults— yikes! They were all horrible! This is likely due to the fact that most of them were well known comedic actors who'd previously starred in various sitcoms. There was John Ritter from Three's Company, Harry Anderson from Night Court, Tim Reid from WKRP In Cincinnati and Richard Masur from One Day At A Time. You could probably count Dennis Christopher too, since Breaking Away was a sort of a humorous coming of age film.


This is one of the miniseries' many missteps, as these sitcom stars were all painfully out of their element and had no earthly idea how to carry a serious horror film.


• One more thing about the TV miniseries before I stop bashing it and get on with the new film. Ever since it aired, people have been praising actor Tim Curry for his spooky portrayal of Pennywise. I don't get this, as frankly I thought he was awful.

OK, maybe I should clarify that. There's nothing wrong with Curry per se, as he turns in a wonderful performance as always. It's just that his Pennywise wasn't the least bit scary. This is no doubt due to the censors, who likely hamstrung him at every turn. All he did was materialize before every commercial break, point at the camera and spout terrible one liners. Sadly he came off as downright goofy rather than scary. 

Actually TV Pennywise reminded me of bit of late stage Freddy Krueger. When Freddie first appeared in A Nightmare On Elm Street, he was legitimately terrifying. By the time A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors rolled around, all attempts at being scary had been forgotten, as he constantly spewed groan-worthy puns ala the Crypt Keeper.


As an example of TV Pennywise's lameness: at one point Bill has a vision of seven freshly-dug graves, one for each member of the Losers. Pennywise pops up and points (of course) at one of the graves, telling Bill, "There's room for one more!" Oooooh, scary!

TV Pennywise also turned into a goddamned Rottweiler at one point and killed a psych ward guard. I'm assuming this was supposed to be frightening, but unfortunately it came off as unintentionally hilarious.

The closest TV Pennywise ever came to being even mildly spooky was when he'd occasionally wear a pair of pointy fake teeth he bought at Party City.

• Thankfully the new IT gives us a Pennywise that's much more frightening. This new version looks creepy, unsettling and disturbing. The old Pennywise wore a bright, clean suit that looked like it just came from the cleaners. Movie Pennywise has a costume that's dirty, mildewed and moldy. He looks... unwholesome, for lack of a better word, which in this case is a good thing.

This is also a much more physical Pennywise, one that actually lunges toward the Losers instead of just pointing at them. Of course he never actually catches any of them, since they all need to survive the movie to become adults, but still...

• In several scenes, the filmmakers use a "stabilization effect" on Pennywise, meaning the background moves around while his face stays rock-still in the center of the screen. I can't quite pinpoint why, but it's a disturbing and unsettling effect that makes the audience uneasy. Kudos to whoever came up with this idea.

• In many of his scenes, Pennywise's left eye is gazing in a subtly different direction from his right one. No CGI or special contact lenses were used for this disquieting effect, as one of actor Bill Skarsgard's many talents is the ability to look in two directions at once.

• When New Line first announced that actor Bill Skarsgard was cast as the new Pennywise, the internet of course sprang into action, instantly denouncing the choice. Luckily Skarsgard did an amazing job, giving us a truly memorable new version of the evil clown.

Supposedly Tilda Swinton and Richard Armitage (aka Thorin Oakenshield from The Hobbit films) were in the running to play Pennywise. Thank the movie gods neither of those terrible casting choices happened.

• Oddly enough, the Duffer Brothers desperately wanted to direct IT, but were rejected by New Line because they were relative unknowns (and Andy Muschietti wasn't?). Fortunately for us, the Duffers went on to write and direct 2016's TV miniseries Stranger Things, which is a love letter to 1980s horror and scifi movies, and contains many a reference and homage to the works of Stephen King.

In fact, even though IT was written in 1986, I have no doubt that some audiences will watch the new film and whine, "Hey, this is just a big ripoff of Stranger Things!"

Adding to the confusion is the fact that child actor Finn Wolfhard (which may be one of the greatest names of all time) played Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things, and also plays Richie Tozier in IT. To cloud things even further, Stranger Things takes place firmly in the 1980s. For some inexplicable reason, Andy Muschietti needlessly moved the setting of IT from the 1950s to the 1980s as well.

• In the TV movie, Mike Hanlon is the one who's obsessed with Derry's history and is constantly reading about it. For some reason the movie makes the boneheaded decision to graft this trait onto Ben. This leaves Mike with literally nothing to do during the film, other than stand around motionless in the background. He barely even has any lines! I honestly can't think of any good reason for this change, and I'm sure it's just gonna end up pissing off a lot of people.

• Ugh, another week, another god awful, butt-ugly movie poster. What the hell happened to the art of film advertising? A poster's supposed to pique your curiosity and make you want to rush out to see the movie. All this poster does is piss me off. Someone somewhere actually got paid to create this drab, dreary and ill-conceived design.

For some reason, the number 27 figures prominently in IT, both on and off the screen. In the book, Pennywise returns to Derry every twenty seven years to feed on the town's kids. Jonathan Brandis, who played Bill in the TV miniseries, died at the much too young age of twenty seven. The new film was released exactly twenty seven years after the miniseries. And the new IT was released one month after Bill Skarsgard's twenty seventh birthday. Ooooh, spooky!


• Although I enjoyed IT as a whole, I have to admit it got a bit repetitious after a while. Pennywise menaces all seven members of the Losers club individually, and the film insists on showing us every single one of these incidents. 


Each encounter plays out exactly the same— one of the kids finds themselves alone, they see a vision of Pennywise, he lunges at them and they escape in the nick of time. Lather, rinse, repeat. 


These scenes become tedious after a while because we know that no matter what Pennywise does, he can't actually kill any of the Losers, since they all have to survive to become adults and appear in Part 2. Note that for some reason, Pennywise doesn't seem to have any trouble killing off any of the film's minor characters.


• At one point Beverly's alone in her house, and hears the eerie whispers of Pennywise's victims issuing from her bathroom sink. As she leans down to hear what they'r saying, a geyser of blood unexpectedly spurts from the drain, splattering her in the face. 


In the TV miniseries, it looks like maybe a gallon of blood sprays out of the drain, which seems like a reasonable amount. In the new film, several thousand gallons pour from it, covering Beverly's entire body and coating every square inch of her bathroom! It's such an over-the-top amount of blood that it becomes unintentionally hilarious rather than scary.


To make things worse, the other Losers come by Beverly's house, see the bloody bathroom, and offer to help clean it up. Jesus Christ! How the hell did they accomplish that? It would take ten days and several truckloads of cleaning supplies to mop up a mess that size! Yet they somehow do it in just a few hours, before Bev's abusive asshole of a dad comes home from work.


• Eddie Kaspbrak has an encounter with Pennywise at the old Neibolt House. It's a comically cliched Hollywood haunted mansion, that looks like the Munsters and Addams Family houses met and produced an offspring. It even comes with a hilariously gnarled tree in the front yard that looks like it was sculpted by an effects team rather than twisted by the elements.

• Inside the Neibolt House, Richie enters a room filled with creepy clown dolls. One of these dolls looks very much like the TV miniseries version of Pennywise, right down to the bright red hair and colorful costume.

• Pennywise attacks the kids inside the Neibolt House, and if you look closely you can see sharp claws tearing through the ends of his gloves, as he seemingly begins morphing into a werewolf (unfortunately we never get a full-on transformation).

This is likely a book & miniseries reference. See, Pennywise feeds on his victims' fears, so to that end he often appears as the thing that scares them most. In the book and the miniseries, Richie's terrified of werewolves after seeing one in a horror movie. Pennywise senses this and transforms into the main character from I Was A Teenage Werewolf in order to scare Richie.


• The film's set in the summer of 1989, and occasionally we see the Losers ride their bikes past the local Derry movie theater. Over the months the movies advertised on the marquee are Batman (in June), Lethal Weapon 2 (in July) and A Nightmare On Elm Street 5 (in August).


In case you're wondering, all three films really did come out in 1989, and in the months indicated! Well done, guys!


• So what happened to Beverly's dad? At one point he tries to molest her, and she clocks him but good by breaking the lid from the toilet tank over his head. He goes down like a load of bricks, and we see an alarming amount of blood pour out of his head and onto the tile floor.

And that's the last we ever see or hear of him! Did she really just kill her dad? Based on the aftermath, I can't see any way that she didn't. If she did do him in, she doesn't seem very choked up about it for the rest of the film. Sure, he was a physically abusive asshole, but does that really justify his murder? 

If her dad really is dead, what happens next to Bev? Will she live in her home by herself? What about the authorities? We're told that Pennywise used his powers to make the adults of Derry apathetic, so he could go about killing off kids without any pesky legal entanglements. But would they really look the other way in a murder case?

And what does this say about Beverly's character? She's ostensibly one of the heroes of the piece, but she just killed her dad in cold blood. Is the audience just supposed to ignore that? Apparently Bill's OK with it, as the movie ends with he and Bev smooching.

• When Pennywise abducts Beverly, his mouth opens impossibly wide, revealing row after row of terrifying teeth, like some kind of pasty-faced lamprey. Beverly sees three bright lights deep inside Pennywise's throat and is instantly hypnotized.

These glowing balls are called "deadlights." They're part of the novel, and were very briefly mentioned in the miniseries. It's not really clear just what the deadlights are, as sometimes Pennywise says they're where he's from (?) and other times he states they're his true form. Supposedly anyone who sees the deadlights instantly goes crazy. So... why doesn't this happen to Beverly? Other than because she's a main character who can't be harmed yet?


• There's a lot of bizarre cosmic hooey in the novel, because Stephen King was hopped up on booze and cocaine back in the 1980s when he wrote IT. Now before you say, "Bob, how dare you spread gossip like that," King himself fully admits it. In fact he's stated in interviews that he doesn't remember writing a single word of his 1981 novel Cujo (which I have no trouble believing). Fortunately he's managed to clean himself up in recent years.


I'm not gonna go into the weirdo space stuff in much detail, because it comes out of left field, it completely clashes with the relatively grounded tone of the rest of the novel and it's just plain stupid. Basically, Bill psychically travels to the Macroverse, which is some sort of parallel dimension (cocaine). There he meets an ancient super-intelligent turtle named Maturin, who apparently created the entire universe (more cocaine). Maturin tells Bill that Pennywise is some sort of formless evil entity, and gives him tips on how to defeat It (mountains of coke).


The movie wisely decides to jettison all that claptrap, although it's possible it may crop up in the inevitable sequel.

There are actually a couple of references to Maturin in the movie. When the Losers are all splashing around in their swimming hole, one of them says he spotted a turtle underwater. Later on Bill enters Georgie's room and picks up a turtle built out of Lego (!).

• And now we come to the part of the review I know you've all been waiting for— a discussion about the most controversial and downright perverted chapter of the entire  IT novel. Yep, I'm gonna talk about the infamous Tween Gangbang Scene.

In the novel, the Losers hunt down Pennywise in the sewers below Derry and amazingly manage to defeat him (or at least send him packing for a while). Afterwards they find they can't remember how to get out of the maze-like sewer tunnels, and are hopelessly lost.

The kids start to panic, but never fear— Beverly comes to the rescue! Amazingly, she tells the guys that the only way to restore their memories and find their way out of the tunnels is for her to have sex with each and every one of them (!). King then gives us an entire chapter detailing Beverly's blow-by-blow (so to speak!) description of their coupling. She even describes what each of their penises feel like, noting that Ben's is the biggest (!!!).

Yep, you read all that correctly. Stephen King actually wrote a goddamned gang bang scene involving eleven year olds.

Jesus Jetskiing Christ! I know King was coked out of his mind when he wrote the scene, but what about his publishing company? Were there no editors working there? Was he so successful and powerful at that point that no one had the guts to stand up and say, "Stephen baby, we love the new book, but could you maybe tone down the kid-on-kid molesting a bit?" 

King's desperately attempted to justify this scene many times over the years, with predictably cringe-worthy results. In an interview, King said:
I wasn’t really thinking of the sexual aspect of it. The book dealt with childhood and adulthood— 1958 and Grown Ups. The grown ups don’t remember their childhood. None of us remember what we did as children—  we think we do, but we don’t remember it as it really happened. Intuitively, the Losers knew they had to be together again. The sexual act connected childhood and adulthood. It’s another version of the glass tunnel that connects the children’s library and the adult library. Times have changed since I wrote that scene and there is now more sensitivity to those issues.
Nice try, Steve. You still wrote a scene about eleven years olds f*cking.

I've also seen fans of the book desperately bend over backwards as they try to defend the scene, saying it was a metaphorical "sacrificing of a virgin," which was the only way to defeat Pennywise. Again, good effort, guys, but I ain't buying it. It's still sick and demented.

Fortunately for everyone concerned, both the TV miniseries and this new film completely jettison this seamy subplot, and rightly so. In the film, the Losers find their way out of the sewer with no trouble, then slice open their hands and swear a blood oath to return to Derry if Pennywise ever comes back. Phew!

IT is one of the better Stephen King adaptations I've seen in a long time, and actually contains a few genuine scares. It's not perfect, but it gets more right than wrong, and is light years better than the woeful TV miniseries, giving us a legitimately terrifying Pennywise. Amazingly it's rated R, which is a rarity in these days of watered down PG-13 "horror" films. I give it a good solid B.

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